3. Lowell McAdam, Chairman, CEO and President, Verizon Communications - Most Powerful People in Wireless

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Lowell McAdam, Charirman, CEO and President of Verizon CommunicationsWhat makes him powerful: Verizon Communications Chairman, CEO and President Lowell McAdam is back on the Powerful People list after a brief hiatus last year when Dan Mead, CEO of Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), made the list for his shepherding of the company's nationwide launch of LTE and the launch of the first CDMA iPhone.  

In 2012, we believe McAdam belongs back on the Powerful People list because of his role in orchestrating  Verizon Wireless' $3.9 billion purchase of 20 MHz of nationwide AWS spectrum from a group of cable companies, as well as related spectrum deals with T-Mobile USA and Cricket provider Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP).

Thanks to this multi-billion dollar spectrum deal, Verizon now has enough spectrum for at least the next four to five years, according to CFO Fran Shammo. By the end of 2013 the company expects to have filled in its 3G coverage footprint with LTE service using its 700 MHz spectrum and then will likely start deploying LTE in its AWS spectrum in certain cities.

Getting the spectrum deal approved by the FCC was quite a feat considering the acquisition was initially opposed by several key players, including the Rural Cellular Association (now known as the Competitive Carriers Association), MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS) and many public interest groups. These opponents argued that regulators should impose strict restrictions to make sure Verizon does not warehouse its spectrum. However, much of that opposition faded away after Verizon announced its proposed spectrum swap with T-Mobile USA, a savvy move indeed.

That deal calls for T-Mobile to swap AWS spectrum with Verizon covering 218 markets across the country to help with both companies' LTE network rollouts. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Verizon also plans to auction off 700 MHz A and B Block spectrum.

McAdam not only helped negotiate those complicated spectrum deals, he also helped usher in the era of the shared mobile data plan, something the company had been hinting about for several months. Verizon made history with its June launch of the first U.S. shared data plans, dubbed "Share Everything."  

Verizon's plans include unlimited voice minutes, unlimited text, video and picture messaging and a single data allowance for up to 10 Verizon devices. In June, McAdam said that he expected the new shared data plans to make life simpler for customers who want to connect multiple devices and share data among them.

With the introduction of the new shared data plans, Verizon also debuted a new reporting metric for investors: average revenue per account, or ARPA, instead of average revenue per user. It will be interesting to see whether other operators follow Verizon's lead. AT&T, did follow Verizon in launching its own shared data plans, called "Mobile Share," one month later. But AT&T has not yet changed any of its reporting metrics.

On the network front, Verizon Wireless continues to tout its LTE dominance. The company aggressively launched LTE in December 2010 and now covers 250 million POPs with LTE.

And while high-profile spectrum deals and strategic decisions are critical to a company's success, what makes McAdam really powerful is his ability to morph from a telecom company executive to a consumer electronics leader. McAdam will be a keynote speaker at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2013--a spot usually reserved for consumer electronics company CEOs. This new role seems to exemplify the wireless industry's growing role in consumer electronics and McAdam's leadership within the industry.--Sue

Special Report: Top 25 Most Powerful People in U.S. Wireless 2012